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"I begin to think I have already 'put my foot in it," replied I, smiling bitterly at the gloomy prospect of my kind intentions being frustrated. "My usual luck! But pray, my dear friend, what do you advise? I would not for the world run the risk of—”
"A thought strikes me !" exclaimed he, suddenly interrupting me. "Suppose let me see you have ordered the coaches to take us to the boats?"
"Yes, yes," said I impatiently.
"Then I'll tell you what we'll do," continued he. "Order the coaches to drive to the Forest, and let's have a pic-nic instead, and let the boats go to thewharfs again."
My dear friend," cried I, "you have saved a drowning man,' and deserve a medal from the Humane Society. It shall be done-and what a surprise it will be to the whole company!"
"And an agreeable one, I have no doubt,” added the ingenious Brown.
It is impossible for words to express how grateful I felt for the kind interference of my friend. The coaches arrived, and presently followed the whole bevy of my acquaintance.
As Brown had predicted, the ladies were gaily but thinly clad, while all the gentlemen wore check shirts, round jackets, and white trowsers, bearing in their hands fishing-rods and landing-nets. Brown looked at me and smiled. I acknowledged his telegraphic intelligence with a nod; for I had more reason than ever to be pleased at his foresight and arrangement.
We soon filled the vehicles, and, chatting and laughing, almost imperceptibly reached our destination.
The surprise of the whole company was prodigious. As they were getting out of the carriages, three or four sportsmen (vulgar Cockneys they must have been) not only laughed outright, but made sundry impertinent observations on the nautical attire of our male friends.
It was certainly not quite in harmony with the scene, I must confess; but they all laughed, threw back their fishing-tackle into the vehicles, and appeared to enjoy the "surprise" exceedingly.
How difficult it is to fathom the breasts of mankind! Two days afterwards I learned that the whole party were illiberal enough to attribute my prudent conduct to a fickleness of purpose, and a wanton waywardness of disposition, — ungraciously declaring that they were grievously disappointed, and that the whole affair went off flatly!
Notwithstanding the acknowledged elegance of my suburban establishment, I was well aware that it was wanting in that chief domestic ornament a wife.
Being connubially inclined, I looked cautiously around me in order to select an appropriate helpmate.
An orderly family, which was well to do in the world, consisting of a father and two grown-up daughters, attracted my attention; and I was resolved if the eldest, upon a nearer acquaintance, proved agreeable to my wishes, to pop the question. I soon had an opportunity of inviting them to a snug family party.
Everything was put in requisition for this welcome, when Jackson, on the eventful morning, dropped in to
take a snack with me. I mentioned the intended meeting.
"It's all very well, my dear fellow," said he; "but a bachelor giving a family party is really rather outré, and I think it will most probably prove a failure."
"Do you think so?" cried I, trembling with apprehension at the prospect of such an issue.
"Pon my word, I do," replied he.
"Now, if it
were my case,—
"What would you do?"
Why, invite a lot of my friends to meet them, to be sure; get up a little music and singing; and, if I found the thing take, 'kick up' a quadrille."
"Excellent!" exclaimed I.
"But the worst of it
is, the time is too short." "Nonsense!" cried Jackson; " you're too fastidious by half. Leave the affair to me! You provide the room, and I'll provide the company."
With the assistance of this truly valuable and disinterested friend, the matter was promptly arranged, and the invitations issued. The chandelier and the candelabras were scarcely lighted before Mr. Wilkinson and his daughters arrived, and, close upon their heels, tripped in the juveniles, all in holiday trim. But she, whom in my mind's eye I regarded as my intended, and her sister were plainly attired, and I suspected, with that constitutional sensitiveness which is indeed my bane, that there was rather too much of that shrinking modesty of the violet about the two sisters. In fact, they could not sing, and would not dance; the eldest candidly declaring, that they were not attired for the
quadrille, and did not anticipate such an entertainment! They appeared, however, quite pleased with the music and singing, and I was resolved to thaw their frigidity by my exertions. I sang, recited, and buffooned away the whole evening, assisted by the inimitable Jackson, who certainly played "first fiddle" on the occasion.
Alas! all my exertions proved worse than fruitless; for the very next invitation I sent to the Wilkinsons brought an icy note from the father, politely apologizing, and candidly expressing his opinion, that my pursuits and pastimes so ill accorded with his and that of his family, that he considered it best at once to decline any further communication. The very coldness of the note threw me into a profuse perspiration. I read it to Jackson. He raised his brows, and whistled.
"That's it!" whispered he, slapping his thigh. "What's it?" demanded I.
Why, they're Methodists!" replied he "and you've put your foot in it nicely."
I thought this rather abrupt, considering I had followed his advice.
"Now I recollect," continued he, "I remember seeing the name of Wilkinson down for ten guineas to one of the missionary concerns. I'll tell you what to do. There is to be a meeting at the Hephzibah chapel; attend it; subscribe, (it's a good cause,) and you may probably regain his good graces."
"I was resolved to shoot this arrow, hit or miss. The Wilkinsons were there, and the worthy old man
made a long speech on the occasion; in fact, he appeared to be quite a leading man. The list of subscriptions was read over, and my heart fluttered. There was none exceeding one guinea but Wilkinson's, who was down for ten. "All right!" whispered Jackson. I felt an indescribable glow when my name was pronounced, coupled with the donation of twenty pounds! I saw the colour mount in the sallow cheeks of Wilkinson, and I thought that his daughters acknowledged my liberality with a blush.
But a few days convinced me of my error. My liberality only produced envy; it was called purseproud arrogance by the little subscribers; and as for Wilkinson, whose pride it had been always to be at the head of the list, he regarded my conduct as an open insult, only intended to lower him in the estimation of the multitude! And so-the breach was widened, and never to be repaired.
Surely the art of pleasing is as difficult of attainment as the discovery of the philosopher's stone! At least it has been my misfortune to verify this position.
Two political partisans, both intimate friends of mine, quarrelled at the late election. Now I, who really love harmony, determined to act the part of pacificator, and invited both to a dinner-party on the same day.
The consequences were anything and everything but what I fondly anticipated. Only one cracked a bottle on the occasion, and that literally; for, in the heat of a turbulent argument, one of my friends so far forgot him